Tuesday, October 6, 2015

President Muhammadu Buhari releases 21 ministerial nominees

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari nominated four former state governors and the current head of the national oil company as ministers in his administration, according to a list presented to lawmakers in the capital, Abuja.

Senate President Bukola Saraki read aloud the 21 names who make up the first group of ministerial nominees proposed by Buhari, though the list, given to Saraki by the presidency last week, didn’t say which ministries the nominees are intended to head.

Among those nominated were Rotimi Amaechi, 50, who governed oil-producing Rivers state from 2007 until 2015 when his second term expired. A one-time ally of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Amaechi left the then-ruling People’s Democratic Party in 2013 to join the All Progressive Congress, which was in opposition at the time. He was a key member of Buhari’s campaign team, and last month traveled with the president to the United Nations General Assembly.

“The APC has always been a coalition of loose interests, and now he is in power Buhari clearly recognizes that the stability of his government is contingent on satisfying those interest groups,” said Manji Cheto, vice-president at consultancy Teneo Intelligence, speaking by phone from London. “Investors will by and large hold back on judgment given that some of the names are not well known. It isn’t a complete list, there will be a second round.”

Senate Screening

Buhari, 72, has drawn criticism from opposition figures and some analysts for moving slowly to name his cabinet following his victory over Jonathan in a March election that ushered in the first democratic handover of power in Africa’s biggest oil producer. The Senate, which must approve the nominees, will begin its screening process on Oct. 13, Saraki said.

Babatunde Fashola, 52, one of the few nominees who are household names in Nigeria, was governor of Lagos state, home to the country’s commercial capital, between 2007 and 2015. A lawyer by training, he is seen as a technocratic politician credited with reducing crime, improving infrastructure and implementing improvements in tax collection that reduced Lagos’ dependence on federally allocated oil revenue.

Of the other two ex-governors, Chris Ngige of southern state Anambra, also defected from the PDP, and Kayode Fayemi, 50, was governor of Ekiti State in western Nigeria from 2010 until 2014, when he was unseated by the PDP candidate. A former director of Abuja-based political think-tank the Centre for Democracy and Development, Fayemi was a member of Buhari’s transitional committee set up between the presidential election and inauguration.

With government finances challenged by the halving of oil prices in the past year, Buhari hasn’t laid out his plan to revive Nigeria’s economy or appointed a finance minister. In his Independence Day address on Oct. 1, he called for patience and said he will do more to cut waste and fight corruption.

Central Control

Another nominee, Emmanuel Kachikwu, was in August appointed group managing director of state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. A former executive vice-chairman of ExxonMobil Africa, he was put in place by Buhari to eliminate corruption at the NNPC. In September, he said Nigeria would review some contracts with oil companies for deep offshore oil production to seek more favorable terms.

“One of the biggest complaints people have had about how the NNPC is run is that it’s both operator and regulator, and if Kachikwu is given a role at the oil ministry, it will entrench that structure and go even further toward centralizing control of the oil industry,” Teneo’s Cheto said.

Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was oil minister under Jonathan, was arrested in the U.K. on suspicion of bribery and money laundering offenses, an official in the Nigerian presidency said on Oct. 5.

Also on Buhari’s list of nominees were Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for the APC, and Kemi Adeosun, who has worked as finance commissioner for southwestern state Ogun.


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